Are you a slave to your phone? Happiness researchers explain how social media is making you unhappy
Many things aren’t what they used to be because of social media. We don’t talk to each other often anymore, because we’d rather check our mobile phones even if we’re seated at a table with friends and family. So everyone ends up reaching for their mobile phones as well.
According to happiness researcher and psychologist Dr. Tim Bono, social media has changed the ways we relate to each other. We’re updated on what’s happening to the world and to our immediate surroundings faster. We know what our friends and family are up to. But just like any new development, social media can backfire if it’s abused, or not handled well. (h/t to Healthista.com)
- Decreased attention span: Social media has given users instant, easy access to information and entertainment. People get so used to instant gratification they can’t control their impulses anymore. Bono believes that if we can’t resist the urge to check Facebook for a silent six-minute period, we might not be able to keep our mind from wandering when it needs to pay attention.Solution: Meditation is the best way to focus on something. With practice, we learn to become better at pinpointing distracting thoughts, and letting them go. We learn to be better at rechanneling our attention back to the work at hand. This skill extends to our ability to persevere through a challenging task despite new social media posts.
- It’s addictive: Most of us know that we spend long hours checking our social media accounts – but we still do it. That’s because it’s addicting. In the same way, a gambler in Las Vegas continues to place his bets on a favorite game even if he loses big time. The feeling the player gets whenever he expects to hit the jackpot the next time he pulls the lever at the slot machine is the same feeling that we get while we browse social media.Solution: Put your phone away from arm’s reach. Download apps that check or limit the time you spend on certain sites. Bury social media apps in folders on the last screen of your phone. Better yet, don’t use the apps at all and log into a web browser each time you want to log on.
- People don’t interact anymore: The strongest component of happiness is the strength of our connections to others. However, this doesn’t refer to the number of friends or followers you have on Facebook or Instagram. Bono says our social media time has encroached on the quality and quantity of our person-to-person connections. We may be seated next to a person, but we’re mentally absent from the situation, passing up the chance to genuinely connect to the other person on a deeper level. Solution: Check your list of friends instead, and find someone to call. The happiness you get from a genuine connection to another person will be a lot greater than a random post or like on social media.
- Social comparisons become the norm: Bono and other psychologists know that this is a bane: People who measure their worth against what others own find it hard to be happy. Unfortunately, social media lets us know what others have achieved, where they spent their grand vacation and other things that could make us envious. It’s almost impossible not to get carried away by a tidal wave of comparison.Solution: Count your blessings. Those who take even a few minutes to think about what they must be thankful for, feel happier and more hopeful. Bono says they get sick less than those who don’t see the bright side of things.
- Sleep deprivation – Sleep is essential to happiness and well-being. It helps our brain rest and prepares it for the following day. However, feeling anxious, angry and envious of what we see on social media keeps the brain on red alert and prevents us from falling asleep.Solution: Keep your phone off your nightstand. Before going to sleep, do deep breathing exercises or read a book to divert your attention. Choose something that reduces brain activity, which is the opposite of what social media does.
For sure, social media has plenty of benefits. However, too much of anything is never good. We have to draw the line between healthy social media use and abuse of this endless source of information and entertainment.